While watching a YouTube video, Grant Cooper saw an ad about metal straws being sold at a farmers market.
Those were being promoted because plastic straws were winding up in the oceans and affecting animals, including sea turtles.
In talking with one of his friends, Bailey Carter, she found it equally disturbing because she learned sea turtles are endangered.
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“We’re killing all kinds of animals without even knowing it, and even if we recycle straws, if they are too small, they could get right through the recycling and they can still get into the ocean and kill all kinds of animals,” she said.
The pair, who just finished the school year at the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center, came up with a new group, Sea the Truth, and got a couple of their friends, Lorelai Dixon and Willow Nowland, on board.
They gained approval from Interim Principal Linda Luedeman to start the group and sell biodegradable paper straws during the three lunch periods on the last two days of school.
“I told Bailey about this idea, and she was all into it,” Cooper said. “She told her mom (Helen Carter), and her mom bought all of the straws, so if it wasn’t for her mom, we probably wouldn’t even be doing this.”
The straws are 25 cents apiece, $1 for five or $2 for 10. Now that school is out, they can be purchased by contacting Helen Carter on Facebook or calling 812-528-2086.
Proceeds will go to the SEE Turtles Billion Baby Turtles program, which provides support for important turtle nesting beaches and has helped save more than 1 million hatchlings, according to seeturtles.org.
“If an animal swallows them, it will just break down inside their body,” Carter said of the biodegradable straws.
Anyone who buys a pack of 10 turtle straws also receives a pack of Paws for a Cause straws. That initiative is being led by Carter’s younger sister, Taylor.
“Every four straws saves 10 turtle hatchlings,” Cooper said.
Proceeds from the paws straws will be used to collect pet supplies for Mercy Animal Rescue in Jennings County.
When other students first heard about their initiative, Cooper said some of them were unsure about it. He and Carter then educated them about how sea turtles are being affected by the plastic straws.
“We prove how it’s greater for the environment,” Carter said of using biodegradable straws.
“They thought since we’re not even close to the ocean that this wouldn’t work out,” Cooper said. “When they make fun of us, it’s doesn’t get us. We just make it more encouraging.”
They also share how it’s personally important to them to do what they can to help.
“It’s very important to me. I’ve always loved animals,” Carter said.
“I’ve always loved nature, and I love the ocean,” Cooper said. “I like going outside doing all kinds of stuff if I go to the beach.”
Luedeman said she was impressed with their proposal and is glad to see them put their idea in motion.
“We’re excited for them,” she said. “I like seeing them take initiatives like this and have a cause. They are saving turtles. They are very passionate about it. They are making a difference.”
As Cooper and Carter move on to Seymour Middle School in the fall, they hope to continue Sea the Truth there and also see it continue at the Sixth Grade Center.
Cooper encourages people of any age to start an initiative if they are passionate about something.
“For me, I didn’t think I could do this because I’m very shy around random people,” he said. “It’s just trying something outside their comfort zone.”
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The biodegradable paper straws are 25 cents apiece, $1 for five or $2 for 10.
They can be purchased by contacting Helen Carter on Facebook or calling 812-528-2086.